What do you need to start kegging beer?
You need a keg to keg beer
Obviously when you want to keg beer, you’ll need a keg. The best type of keg for homebrewers is the old Pepsi style 5 gallon kegs. They are also referred to as Cornelius kegs (after one of the manufacturers) or Corny keg. I’m not sure what the options in other countries are, but in the United States this is the best choice.
You can find these kegs brand new for $100-130 USD. It’s not a good deal though. You can find these kegs used for anywhere between $15-35 USD. You can get better deals if you shop around and buy a pack of 4 kegs. They are usually in poor condition on the outside, but the inside is spotless. It does not matter what the outside looks like as long as the inside looks good and the keg can hold pressure.
You may need to replace some of the rings on the keg. These are the rubber rings which attach to the posts, the lid, and the liquid and gas tubes on the inside. Some homebrew shops and online outlets sell a set of these rings for $4-5 USD, but you can buy a bag of a hundred from McMaster-Carr. Here’s the part numbers and links:
Dip Tube O-Rings
5/16″ ID x 1/2″OD x 3/32″ width
9452K172 BunaN #109
7/16″ ID x 5/8″ OD x 3/32″ width
9452K23 BunaN #111
3 1/2″ ID x 4″ OD x 1/4″ width
9452K218 BunaN #417
(Reference: St. Paul Homebrewers Club)
You might need to replace the posts if your kegs are in really poor condition. So far I’ve been lucky and all my posts and poppets arrived in good condition. If you are unlucky, you can find new posts online at Northern Brewer or possibly at your local homebrew store.
You also need a CO2 cylinder and the fittings
Once you have a keg and you’ve filled it, you’ll need to carbonate your beer. This requires a regulator, a CO2 tank, tubing and fittings, and a tap to dispense your beer.
The fittings are the gas and liquid disconnects which attach to the keg. The gray disconnect attaches to the gas post, and the black disconnect attaches to the liquid post. To tell the difference between the posts, the gas post usually has notches and has a star like pattern to the edges. The liquid post looks more like a hexagon, and does not have notches in the edges.
Most homebrew shops will sell you all this equipment as a draft system. Some places will omit the CO2 gas tank from the list of items in the draft system. I think omitting the CO2 tank is a much better deal, because many homebrew shops will exchange CO2 tanks but they will not fill it for you. It’s similar to the propane tank exchange at your grocery store. The exchange works out cheaper too, because you just need to pay a deposit for the cylinder. You don’t need to buy one. I had a hard time finding a place in Denver to fill my CO2 tank, and I wish I had one to exchange (I do travel to Aurora now to fill it).
The regulator in most kits is a dual gauge regulator. This means it displays the dispensing pressure and the pressure remaining in the CO2 cylinder. I’m not sure how useful the “remaining pressure” gauge is, since it will stay at one pressure (based on temperature) and then drop to zero when it is empty.
Another gauge is a double gauge regulator has two dispensing pressure gauges. It’s great for if you want to carbonate or dispense at two different pressures. I use mine to carbonate two different styles at two different pressures.
…and a tap to serve the beer
When I’m serving my beer I usually use a picnic tap. It looks similar to the taps you might have seen in college, but it does not require you to pump your beer full of air. You can also hook your beer up to a bar system with beer taps, but it’s something you get when you get deeper into kegging. For now, all you really need is the picnic tap.
So that’s all the equipment you need to start kegging. Just a keg, a regulator, CO2 cylinder, and all the fittings. After you clean your keg, all you need to do is pour the beer in and carbonate. It is MUCH simpler than bottles, but it does require a bit more investment.
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Credits and Links
I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!